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Regional Update – June 2023

Having been DCS in Telford & Wrekin for a little over three years, it recently dawned on me that others have come and gone. Some retired, some moved to different challenges, and suddenly I have become one of the old guard. With this in mind, I realised that it was probably timely that I stepped up to the Co-vice Chair role, so here I am.

This also led me to think about “organisational” memory and how important it is, that, as a region, we retain the knowledge collectively gained. This is possibly never more true than with our Regional Care Leaver Offer, which we know is a long-term project. Sure, there are some quick wins, but there are also many complex conversations to be had, over the next five years. Thus, I also offered to chair our RCLO Board, and play my part in keeping the knowledge, and more importantly, preventing the need for start again.

Of course, before any child becomes looked after, and thus ultimately becomes a Care Leaver, all other options must be explored. In Telford & Wrekin our new permanence strategy is underpinned by our family first ethos, in recognition that the best place for children and young people is to be cared for by their birth parents or wider relational network. Our lens of practice when working alongside families is how we can support this to happen and make this safer, rather than a deficit model of removing them from their network, unless this is absolutely necessary. We work towards identifying family extended relational networks at the earliest opportunity, both to support the birth parent, or parents, and complement professional support as the priority. We then identify any potential carers, in the event these are required, at the earliest opportunity.

If a child or young person is cared for in the long term, we continuously review their family time arrangements and family and wider relational networks as a continuum throughout their journey, acknowledging that people can make changes in their life to reconnect with the child. Some adults are also more able to have relationships with children and young people as they grow older or move away from court oversight.

I have no doubt, that all of the above sounds familiar, and that each local authority area in the region has similar aspirations, but it is important we continue to challenge our practice and reflect in line with the national landscape of adoption, the care review recommendations and the findings of our internal audit and practice evaluation work, so that we continue to improve the child’s journey and outcomes.

In the last couple of weeks, the press has again reported on the outcome of a recent child murder trial in our region. Our thoughts go out to Alfie’s family and indeed to all those involved. There will be a Child Safeguarding Practice Review, and I am sure we will all take from the learning that this offers, but in all this, we should not forget the work that is done, day in and day out by dedicated West Midlands child practice professionals. As always, the DCS Network are here to support Worcestershire colleagues in any way that is needed.

Finally, thank you for the work that you and your teams do for children and young people in the region. And please, do not let summer, now it has finally arrived, pass you by. Find the time to enjoy, you will feel better for it, and the service that we provide to our communities will be all the greater!

Best wishes

Jo Britton

Jenny Turnross:

Jenny has announced that she will be moving to a new position in July. Jenny has been a big part of the DCS Network, over the last few years and will be greatly missed. However, her move to Liverpool City Council, as Corporate Director of Children and Young People Services, represents a great opportunity for her.

Obviously, as our current Chair, Jenny’s departure will mean some changes to regional positions and we will update you further on these, next month.

Media and Communications Network:

Last year we agreed, with the full backing of DCS Network, to start a Media and Communications Network. Aimed at bringing specialist officers, from across the region, the idea is to raise the profile of children’s services in the West Midlands, both on a regional and national platform. In turn this should both increase public perception and confidence; and help promote us as the “go to” region of choice for children’s services workers.

Please forward this Regional Update on to any interested member of your Comms Team, or ask us to add them to the mailing list.

Anyone wanting to join this network should email the Regional Team for further details.

PSW Conference:

The Principal Social Worker Conference on Trauma Informed Practice and Supervision was held on 22nd June. It was great to hear enthusiasm, insight and experiences from colleagues across the region with a variety of speakers and workshops held. A Huge thank you to the PSW Network for their dedication and time to developing colleague’s practice. Highlights from the Mentimeter feedback will be available in the coming weeks.

SEND Workshop:

The Staff College is hosting a free workshop on the new SEND inspection experience (as experienced in Telford and Gateshead), next week with tickets limited to 100. Here is the direct link for tickets.

Key Events:

Equality Diversity and Inclusion Programmes

There are a number of regional and national programmes aimed at enabling diversity in leadership with spaces currently available for the Breaking Through programme.

Breaking Through: This Cohort is being tailored to women of colour aspiring to management across children’s services; commissioned by WME and held as a pilot within WM ADCS network. As a result, the places are at a discount of (£1584 pp as opposed to £1950pp if you were to purchase directly). This cohort is likely to commence following the summer period and places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis and dates for the autumn cohort will be released in the next few weeks.

Please contact Ana Davies to reserve places for your LA

More information can be found here and you can watch a webinar here.

Core programme overview:

CPD Opportunities from Partners:

Keele University

Keele University are offering, for the next 12 months, the opportunity for two social workers to be supported by Keele staff to undertake a small-scale research project that meets the interests of the social worker AND the priorities of the service/team.

The social worker will be supervised and supported via a tailor-made tutorial supervision approach, and this will enable the nature of support to vary from supervision and guidance only, to co-researcher/co-analysis of data, according to need. Based upon experience elsewhere, it seems that when there is external supervision, practitioners are more likely to see a project through to completion. The key here is that the project is practice-led and supported by university-based staff not the other way around, and that it is manageable and relevant.

Details can be found here.

Please send expressions of interest/queries to Cath Holmstrom, Head of Social Work at Keele.

Growing Belonging & Compassion in our Schools & Communities

The Staff College has developed an innovative programme consisting of three 90-minute interconnected online workshops and a face-to-face Conference to help education leaders grow belonging and compassion in schools and communities.

Details can be found here.

LeadHERship Academy

For those interested, in self-development Saj Zafar (currently running our regional programme for aspirant to HOS level for women of colour) is expanding coaching and development services to women leaders in the West Midlands.

Details can be found here.

In their own words: Experiences and Insights from Care Experienced Young People

Hosted by Care Experienced young people from the Young People’s Benchmarking Forum.

For Senior Policy and Decision Makers across government, local authorities and the third sector including MPs, Lead Members, DCSs, Policy Leads.

9:30-11:15am Friday, 14th July, Online

Flyer can be found here.

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